This year, Minnesota legislators proposed one of the most generous mandates in the country, with no dollar or age limits on the coverage. But last week, in the face of growing cost concerns, a House committee scaled it back, setting a $50,000 annual limit per child.
Supporters have said they’re more optimistic than ever about an autism mandate, which has support on both sides of the aisle. “People just understand that this is a growing problem that needs to be addressed,” said Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, one of the chief sponsors. “We’re all there. It’s just finding the funds.”
The debate has pit desperate parents, who believe their children’s futures depend on the most intensive treatment, against insurers and business groups that say the mandate will drive up health costs and lock in place a hotly contested brand of therapy.
Thanks to a quirk in federal law, the mandate also could cost Minnesota taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when the state budget is facing $150 million in health care cuts.
Initially, the mandate would affect only about a quarter of Minnesotans — those in state-regulated insurance plans. (Most large employers, which are self-insured, are exempt from state mandates.) But under federal health care reform, any new mandate would apply to plans sold on the new health insurance exchange, and state taxpayers would have to subsidize it. Officials estimate that would cost $3.5 million next year, and $10 million by 2016.